Gilbert had a long career at Harvard University, first as a theoretical physicist, then as a molecular biologist. Currently he is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus and Chair of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980 (with Fred Sanger and Paul Berg) for discovering a rapid way to sequence DNA, which changed that problem from almost impossible to very easy.
He was a founder of Biogen in 1978 and was its CEO from 1981 to 1984. Gilbert has a continuing interest in biotechnology and is currently the vice-chair of Myriad Genetics (which he co-founded in 1992) and a director of Amylyx Pharmaceuticals. Another interest is in creating photographic art (visible at http://wallygilbert.com).
Gilbert is an alumnus of the 1949 Science Talent Search.